Sommelier of the Month - Tanguy Martin

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Author: TheDrinkShop
Tags: Sommelier, Wine
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  • Name: Tanguy Martin
  • Place of birth: Lyon, france
  • Eye colour: Green/blue.
  • Nationality: French.

I started to really enjoy wine when I went to College in Burgundy; where I learnt about winemaking and winegrowing. At the time, I was in boarding school. Many evenings were spent with other students and everyone brought their own wines from different parts of France.

After three years in Beaune, I moved to Montpellier where I gained my winemaking and winegrowing diploma. It was then time for me to see the other side of the business and I moved to the UK. This transfer was for me a big step, my English improved and my knowledge regarding the wines of the rest of the world grew considerably .

Today, even though I have been able to taste so many different wines and discover so many things, I'm still looking for more and more discoveries. 2004-2007 Lycee Viticole de Beaune, wine-growing wine making course-high-school - Beaune, Burgundy, France 2007-2009 Lycee Agropolis, Viticulture and Oenology - Montpellier ,Languedoc France 2008 Domaine Chateau Saint-Sauveur -Beaumes de Venise, Rhone Valley, Assistant winegrower-winemaker - student placement 2009-2010 French professional Certificate of Viticulture and Oenology - Montpellier Domaine Chateau les MAZES - Gres de Montpellier, Languedoc, France - Assistant winegrower and winemaker- Student placement 2010 July Oenology Diploma 2011 Jan-Dec Hotel Terravina - New Forest, England, Waiter - Comis Sommelier 2012-2013 May Hotel Terravina - New Forest, England, Assistant Sommelier 2012 March WSET - Certified Level 2012 May Court of Master Sommelier - Certified level 2013 May-Now Hotel Terravina - New Forest, England, Head Sommelier 2013 June First participation at the UK Sommeleir of the Year competition 2014 March Young Sommelier of the Year 2014 - Chaine des Rotisseurs

About our restaurant

Hotel Terravina is a small boutique hotel situated in the heart of the New Forest National Park. It includes 11 bedrooms and 55 seat restaurant, plus a private dining room. In 2007 when Gerard and Nina Basset started the "Terravina project", they wanted to create a Californian atmosphere, due to their love of Californian Wine County wine regions, relaxed style of living and food produce. There is an open kitchen, an al fresco veranda overlooking the garden and pool and a display wine cellar. The chef team is headed up by Gavin Barnes. The food is modern and uses locally sourced and often organic produce.

The hotel is renowned for great service with an informal, relaxed and laid back style. The staff are key to TerraVina and many have been with the hotel since it opened. Guests return time after time and state that TerraVina is a "little gem" in the forest.

Wine is very much at the heart of the hotel. As Head Sommelier, I am responsible for the wine list, the selection of wine, and the training of the team. We offer approx 400-450 different wines. The aim of the wine list, (as it was created by Laura Rhys, MS and her mentor, Gerard Basset, OBE, MS, MW and Wine MBA and World Champion Sommelier, 2010) is to propose an intense diversity of wine at a very good value. The selection covers the entire world. The selection changes very often. We are looking for diversity, new styles, coup de Coeur and discovery. Myself and my assistant, Ana Maria Martinez Terol, are providing mostly all the wine recommendation, and always try to suggest new styles of wine to our customers, most of whom love to be recommended and try different wines they have yet to discover.

Our Wines

As the wine is most important part of the business, we work very closely with the chefs. We always taste and comment on the food to find the best matches. There is always more than one solution available. We do not establish an automatic food and wine pairing. We always try different wines with the dishes; we are open to suggestion and diversity. We do have a selection of "classic" wine in our list and people will recognize and choose by affection. We always make sure to have these saved choices: (Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand, Shiraz Barossa, Malbec Argentina, or other Sancerre, Meursault, top American, top Bordeaux and so and so. The rest of the list is composed by wine which need recommendation or wines that people won't think to choose for themselves, there are the famous "sommelier wines". For me these are very important when it comes to food and wine pairing. When people choose to go for the pairing they expect the sommelier to come and present something new, unusual, a substitute to the "classic".

As the tasting menu is a 6 course meal with a graduation of flavours between the dishes we propose a flight including 6 glasses. We always ask our customers if there is a style of wine they are not very keen on. The aim is to serve wine s that are unexpected. It's a challenge on that basis, but very exciting for the customers and us. We are delighted to offer different wines such as Bical white, from Portugal, Cabernet Franc from Eger in Hungary, large selection of Austrian red, Riesling from Tasmania, Albarino from New Zealand or again Licor de tannat from Uruguay, plenty of choices. If people want a classic selection... then we do a classic selection, the guest decides, we never impose!

Tanguy's Q&A

What do you think makes a great sommelier?
A great sommelier must be knowledgeable, must understand the need of the customers. As any good sales person, a sommelier must be passionate about his job and a good manager too (Team, budget, wine selection). They must be a good team worker, for me hospitality is like a football team, the goalkeeper is nothing without his defender. The sommelier must support the front of the house and the kitchen team.

Describe your typical day at work. I start my day by the mise en place at the bar; making my wine station ready, look at the bookings for the day and any special requirements. Then I catch up on emails, follow the different events, organise my tasting with suppliers, follow the stock for the bar and the cellar, check invoices, price the wines and add them onto the list. I always find some time to catch up with my assistant and we plan our work together. Between the two of us, we supervise the lunch and dinner service, give recommendations, and give some help at the bar. In less busy days, we find the time to do some training, blind tasting, and improve our knowledge. We have two further assistants, one of whom is a stagiaire so we try to ensure we spend time training with them through the week on both wine and bar elements.

How does pricing affect the wine advice you give diners? I always try to give 3 different ranges of prices when I recommend wine. I try to see how the customers react when I come with the higher priced wine. It's common that I recommend a wine a bit less expensive than the customer is ready to pay, but I will make sure it suits his likes and interest.

Have customers become more knowledgeable about wine? Yes, definitely, we see more enthusiasts. The thing is when you have regular customer, you educate them, and you give them the opportunity to realise that there is a lot more to know than they thought. When they come back, they can bring you something new; even us, sommeliers, we get to learn from our customers.

Who has been most influential in your career? From France and from UK, there are different people, but they are mainly in UK. Firstly and as many sommeliers note, it has to be the unique Gerard Basset, OBE, MS, MW, Wine MBA and World Champion Sommelier 2010: he introduced me to the world of competition. He is a great mentor and very inspiring. Laura Rhys MS too, (working at la Trompette now) When I joined the wine team here at TerraVina in 2011, she was always very patient, offering some help, and support when I started competition and exam; She taught me more than the basics. I don't know many people who have worked with her, but I'm sure they will say the same. She is great! I feel very lucky to have worked as her assistant for a year and half. And I feel lucky to have started beside some great wine personalities.

Describe a good sommelier's introduction or presentation of their list at a table. A good introduction by the sommelier should start by taking knowledge of the menu selected by the customers. Then you can then think or at least guess where to guide people. The second point is to read the type of customers and finally suggest different alternative wines. I always recommend different types of prices, region or grapes variety. The most important thing for me is to understand that every customer, every table is different.

When pairing 'Chef's' dishes with wines, what defines the process for you? There are two processes:

  1. The chef has the menu and we have to match the wine. It this case, we taste the food with the chef, he gives us its impression, we bring our expertise, work out which are the main elements, find how the balance is made in the dish and either we try to complement the dish or contrast it to create a special combination.

  2. We have the wine and we create a special menu with the chef. It's very important to show where is the balance in the wine for the chef to create a special dish. We normally decompose the wine, work out the main character and then chose the main element of the dish. The garnish of the dish will come to give a value to the dish and the wine combination.

Whatever you can read about food and wine matching shouldn't be an automatic satisfaction. We use our own perception and expertise to find the right balance.

How often do you manage to touch base and re-taste your wines? There are a few wines we can rarely try, but probably 60% of the wine list that we taste very often. So it gives us a good impression about the evolution of the wine and gives us the opportunity to adjust our expertise. Every bottle we open are tasted, all times, no matter what wines.

Please describe your process for sourcing new wines. The process is quite common, as much as possible we try to go to London and attend suppliers tasting, it's always a great opportunity to meet people and often winemakers too. It's as well a good way to stay in touch with the suppliers. I try to receive some suppliers at the hotel too. We do a few blind tasting training in other restaurants or with suppliers or ex-sommeliers, which gives the opportunity to try new wines. My assistant does the same on her side and then we share the tasting notes.

Selling wines by the glass. Your thoughts please. It's an important selling point for us. People are coming to Terravina to discover and drink new wines. We do normally 6 white and 6 red by the glass at a very interesting price range. We try to not repeat the style, grapes and region in our selection (at the moment we have some Maria Gomes from Portugal, Marsanne from Uruguay just to name few.) Over the weekend we have more customers, so more flexibility to open other wines and then we are able to offer an even better selection!

What are you really thinking when a customer sends a perfectly good wine back? It's the shame, either if I recommended it, I feel embarrassed, or if the customers chose it, then I cannot do anything, I won't be upset but....

What trends have you noticed in the wine market recently? The market changes for sure, and we see people going to more adventurous wines. People are less scared to taste new wines, even if they like their classic.

You are on that deserted island. Which two varietals do you plant? Possibly Pinot Noir and if it is a volcanic island even better, Malvasia.

What's the key to developing staff to become well-trained to sell and serve wine? Be curious; ask questions, study, taste wines, adjust the service details and believe in yourself.

Do you have a favourite food and wine pairing? I like cheese and wine. Such diversity in both sides, at the moment I enjoy Madeira and hard English cheeses.

And a most unusual food and wine pairing? Sauternes and Rossini beef.

How can customers get the best out of you? What should they be prepared to tell you and what questions should they ask? I always ask the customers what type of wine they like and don't like, we try to get as close as possible to their taste, unless if they want something new. The best question I had recently was, " I would like something like L'ermita, Alvaro Palacios but for half of the price", then it's a challenge for us to find something similar but with same potential.

Who is the one person you'd most like to share a bottle of wine with? It cannot be only one person, so right now, it will be with Laura Rhys, Ana my assistant and George Blogg (a great chef to watch), and it should be a Syrah, from the Rhone Valley.

How can budding wine enthusiasts practice their tasting skills at home? Any games, tricks, or tips? Organise a evening with friend and do a big blind tasting with varietal wine, it can be good fun when it come at the end of the evening!

What's the one thing you love most about your job? Be able, from a same place, to travel through a diversity of wine, spirit, digestive...educate people, recommend a large diversity of wines and rise in the industry beside some great mentor.

Where do you see your future career path? At the moment, I still have a lot to learn and to experience from my current job, but for sure, I will step up in the future to a new challenge, possibly in London in a larger place, or aboard to discover another part of the industry.


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